“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 NIV
In my youth church class, we've been doing a section of lessons based on the idea of a Jesse Tree***. I wanted to highlight some of the major ancestors in the family tree of Jesus to show the young people how God can and will incorporate us into his family tree, no matter what kind of crazy, mixed-up "characters" we are.
In our study this week, we did a lesson on the 12 sons of Jacob based on a blog post I read over at Teach Them about Jacob's 12 sons. Jacob is the grandson of Abraham, and a part of the direct family tree of Jesus.
And boy was he a character - along with his family! Jacob had 12 sons to four different women (two of them were sisters). His story comes complete with jealousy, intrigue, murder attempts and mayhem.
Hmmmm. Sounds like some of those TV soaps, doesn't it?
Most of us know the story of Joseph, the favored son / owner of the coat of many colors, who was sold into slavery in Egypt and ended up as the second most important person there, next to Pharaoh.
But when I asked the youth which one of Jacob's 12 sons was mentioned in the lineage of Jesus, no one knew. They all thought it was Joseph because of the importance placed on his story in scripture.
Who do you think it is?
Some of you are shaking your heads in bewilderment. And, of course, some of you know the answer - it was Judah, the 4th born son. Usually the first-born holds the position of authority and leadership in a clan But not in this case. Reuben, Simeon and Levi were passed over for Judah, #4 in line because of misconduct, jealousy and selfishness with regard to Joseph.
No, Judah wasn't faultless - he was in on the jealous plan to get rid of Joseph with his other brothers. But Judah redeemed himself in the eyes of his father later on when he went out of his way to protect his youngest half-brother, Benjamin (Joseph's younger brother), from an unknown fate at the hands of Pharaoh's 2nd in command in Egypt.
To spare his father further grief, since Jacob had already lost one son (he thought Joseph was dead), Judah exchanged his life for Benjamin's, taking the now-favored,youngest son's place in the Egyptian prison for a time. He had no idea whether he would ever see his family again, but he knew he couldn't allow his father to lose another son borne by Jacob's beloved wife, Rachel.
Judah's name means "praise" and the sign of his clan became a roaring lion - a fitting sign for the coming Messiah.
No matter what kind of soap-opera life we've had, Jesus is in the business of redemption. He wants to change our hearts and include us in his family of crazy, mixed-up, REDEEMED sons and daughters.
Let him change your heart today!
***For those who are unfamiliar with the Jesse Tree, it is a sort of Advent calendar in the shape of a tree (a paper tree, bare tree branch or even a small Christmas tree) with a special ornament that is added each day through the Advent season. Each ornament is related to a Bible story or person who is part of the lineage or timeline leading up to Christ.
There are lots of online resources for anyone wanting more information. Just google "Jesse Tree" and you'll find stories and patterns for ornaments.